The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air is making a dark return with Bel-Air, an hourlong series based on Morgan Cooper’s popular fan film that reenvisions the 1990s Will Smith sitcom as a drama. The project, from Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and Universal Television, is currently being pitched to streamers, drawing strong interest and big commitments, including multiple straight-to-series orders, to set up a bidding war, I hear.
Cooper will direct and co-executive produce the potential series, which he is co-writing with Chris Collins (The Man in the High Castle, The Wire). Collins is an executive producer and showrunner.
Bel-Air is a one-hour, dramatic retelling of the beloved 90s sitcom, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, that leans into the original premise of Will’s complicated journey from the streets of West Philadelphia to the gated mansions of Bel-Air. With a reimagined vision, Bel-Air will dive deeper into the inherent conflicts, emotions and biases of what it means to be a Black man in America today, while still delivering the swagger and fun nods to the original show.
Westbrook Studios, a division of Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith’s Westbrook Inc., and Universal TV, which owns copyright to the original series, will serve as the studios.
The short film by cinematographer Cooper took the Internet by storm when it was released in March 2019. Described by Cooper as “a reinterpretation” that brings the story “into modern-day life in 2019,” it has amassed more than 7.5 million views to date in two official YouTune posts alone.
The four-minute spec trailer has received a lot of praise, including from Will Smith who appeared in a video with Cooper, telling the filmmaker, “That’s an idea that is brilliant.” (You can watch it below.)
Bel-Air would be a good fit for a number of streamers, and I hear Netflix, Peacock, HBO Max, Amazon and Apple are all interested.
The global popularity of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Smith would make the title appealing to platforms with strong U.S. and international presence such as Netflix, Amazon and Apple.
The original sitcom was a signature series for NBC. That legacy would play into Peacock as a potential home. The NBCU streamer has been actively rebooting classic NBC sitcoms with Saved By the Bell and Punky Brewster, and the Fresh Prince reimagening is co-produced by corporate sibling Universal TV.
Meanwhile, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air is being distributed by Warner Bros. TV Distribution. It is streaming on sibling platform HBO Max where Bel-Air would complement the original’s library.
Westbrook Studios’ TV division, run by Terence Carter, also has This Joka, a 16-episode stand-up comedy series at Quibi hosted and executive produced by Will Smith.